What’s Up With Xbox 360 As Cable Box, Virtual Game Room, Game Show Host?

Microsoft has a lot they want to talk about at this Consumer Electronics Show: Their big Kinect sales numbers, the future of that tech, their new phone. But they also have a few things they’re not keen to discuss.

The makers of computer and mobile phone operating systems and the Xbox 360 likes to push their platforms by experimenting with new ideas, but those concepts don’t alway do well. During our talk with the company at CES we pressed them on three of those ideas that seem dead or dying: Their canned game-show-on-a-console 1 Vs 100 video game, the oddly quiet Xbox 360’s virtual game room and Bill Gates own push for the Xbox 360 to double as a cable box.

1 Vs 100
When it hit late in 2009, the idea of bringing the popular mob trivia game to the Xbox 360 was an interesting idea. Microsoft planned to host a number of virtual game shows that features real gamers represented by their avatars as the contestants and audience. And the show seemed to be well received, until it was canned halfway through 2010.

Xbox spokesman David Dennis tells us that while Microsoft gave up on 1 Vs 100, they haven’t given up on the notion of producing future games like it.

“This was a first step in looking at the one versus many experiences,” he said. “It was about building a platform or infrastructure for testing that idea. “Full House Poker, which is one versus 30, is using that same technology.

“We are looking at other games,” he added. “Games like 1 Vs 100 isn’t something we would ever rule out.”

Game Room
The Xbox 360’s Game Room launched in 2010 with the promise of bringing a virtual arcade that you could explore and play in to your Xbox 360. And it had a fairly strong launch with an impressive line-up of early arcade and console classics. But those updates slowed to a trickle, even stopped and started a few times, over the past year.

While Microsoft plans to launch a Game Room for the Windows Phone 7 this spring, the main Xbox 360 service seems to be struggling. I asked Dennis if Microsoft planned on pulling the plug on Game Room anytime soon.

He didn’t have much to say but did tell us that Microsoft is “still investing in Game Room for sure.”

At 2007’s Consumer Electronics Show Microsoft unveiled the first IPTV-enabled Xbox 360. Now three years later most people still don’t have the ability to use their gaming console as a cable box.

What happened?

Afterall, the notion of turning the console into a cable box fits nicely with Microsoft’s stated plans to turn the console into the central media hub for most homes. Xbox 360s can now stream movies and music to your TV. They can let you chat with friends and update your Facebook, so why no cable?

Dennis said that the idea is far from dead.

The company currently has 30 cable operators in six countries around the world that let their customers use an Xbox 360 as an over-the-Internet cable box.

“The teams continue to build,” he said. “They continue to have an ongoing dialog with providers.”

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